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By Rich Woods
Xbox Games with Gold for February include Gears 5 and more
by Rich Woods
Today, Microsoft announced the Games with Gold that Xbox Live Gold and Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscribers will be able to claim for free during the month of February. Typically, this includes two Xbox One games and two Xbox 360 games that are playable via the Backward Compatibility program. This month, however, there are five free games, one of which is optimized for Xbox Series X|S, and that game is a big title: Gears 5.
Here's the full list:
Gears 5 (Xbox One, Optimized for Xbox Series X|S, February 1 -28)
Resident Evil (Xbox One, February 1 - 28)
Dandara: Trials of Fear Edition (Xbox One, February 16 - March 15)
Indiana Jones and the Emperor's Tomb (Xbox, February 1 - 15)
Lost Planet 2 (Xbox 360, February 16 - 28)
As usual, it's also not too late to claim some of this month's Games with Gold. You can still claim Little Nightmares (Xbox One) and Breakdown (Xbox) until the end of the month, and Dead Rising (Xbox One) until February 15.
Alphabet's Loon not commercially viable and is due to shut
by Paul Hill
Alphabet’s Loon has announced that it’s shutting down. The project delivered the internet to cut off communities using stratospheric balloons. X’s Captain of Moonshots Astro Teller said that the Loon subsidiary was not commercially viable describing the project as “riskier than hoped.”
In the coming months, Teller said that Alphabet will begin winding down Loon and that employees “will be moving on.” A small group of the Loon team is going to wrap up operations in places like Kenya where the project is being used to deliver connectivity. For those that have come to rely on Loon, the service will be going away but Alphabet will share what it has learned with telcos, mobile network operators, governments, NGOs and technology companies to help find replacement technology.
Some innovations developed by the project live on according to Teller who said:
While it’s a shame that Loon could not become commercially viable, there are alternative solutions that are being built to help connect those with poor or no internet connectivity. While still expensive, Elon Musk’s SpaceX has been creating its Starlink constellation which delivers speeds of 50Mb/s to 150Mb/s from space.
By Jay Bonggolto
Netflix plans to launch a 'shuffle play' feature this year
by Jay Bonggolto
Last year, Netflix was spotted testing a feature that allowed users to play shows or movies by clicking on a "shuffle play" button sitting right below the row of user profiles. Now, the streaming service has confirmed the arrival of the new capability.
Netflix made the confirmation as part of its financial results for the fourth quarter of 2020. The shuffle button is set for rollout to all subscribers in the first half of this year as a permanent feature.
The upcoming capability will allow users to skip browsing and just let the streaming platform pick a movie or show to play for them based on their viewing history. During Netflix's Q4 investor interview, its COO and chief product officer Greg Peters explained:
That said, there's really no official name for the feature just yet. For now, the service is testing shuffle play on its smart TV apps in the form of either a "Play Something" button below each profile in the initial profile login screen or a similar option in the sidebar menu.
It remains to be seen if features like these will actually add a projected six million new subscribers in Q1 2021, in addition to the current 200 million users that the service was able to disclose in a recent letter to investors.
Netflix membership passed 200 million in 2020
by Paul Hill
In a letter to investors, Netflix announced that it passed 200 million paid members in 2020. The streaming service gained 8.5 million new subscribers in the fourth quarter alone and 37 million over the whole year – a record for the company. The biggest jump in sign-ups occurred in March when countries began implementing lockdowns to tackle COVID-19.
Netflix said that the revenues it generated meant that it believes it no longer needs to "raise external financing for our day-to-day operations". For 2021, it expects that free cash flow will be around break-even. As it generates excess cash, it will explore returning money to shareholders via stock buybacks as it did between 2007 and 2011.
Regarding the explosion in new streaming providers, Netflix said that its strategy going forward is simple; it wants to “improve Netflix every day to better delight our members” to become their first preference for a streaming provider.
To "delight" its users, it'll need enticing content to watch on the platform. According to data from Google, 90% of the top ten searched for TV shows were on Netflix but only 20% of the top ten movies were on the platform. To boost appeal for those who prefer films, the company said that it’s going to release one new original film every week during 2021.
Going forward, Netflix believes it will add six million new customers in the first quarter, a drop year-on-year due to the lockdowns which caused a big spike. The predictions of further growth caused its share price to rocket from $502 to $563 at the time of writing.
LG has announced webOS 6.0 for its 2021 TV line-up
by Paul Hill
LG has unveiled webOS 6.0 for its 2021 OLED, QNED Mini LED, NanoCell and UHD smart TVs. The devices will ship with a new Magic Remote that improves the content discovery experience and the upgraded LG ThinQ AI in webOS 6.0 supports voice commands from Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa.
With webOS 6.0, users will notice an updated home screen which has been designed with usability in mind. LG says the new interface is continually updating to become more relevant to the user; it will display frequently used apps making them easier to get to and new content will be suggested based on the user’s viewing history and preferences.
Discussing the software upgrade, President of LG Home Entertainment Company Park Hyoung-sei said:
The new Magic Remote, mentioned earlier, has been designed to be easy to hold and use while maintaining a premium look and feel. It also features hot keys which make accessing popular content from providers such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney+ that bit easier. A feature called Magic Tap that leverages NFC allows the user to tap the remote against their smartphone to share content between the phone and TV.
The new webOS also comes with Magic Explorer, an updated version of Magic Link. It uses AI to deliver information about what’s showing on the screen including details about the actors, locations and other items of interest. Another feature, Next Picks, uses viewer’s preferences to recommend programmes on live TV or on-demand that the viewer may want to watch thus taking out the hassle of finding something to watch.